If you’re a regular reader of our book pages, then you may remember James Boice. We interviewed him close to the release of his latest novel, The Good & The Ghastly, a fantastic, frenetic literary romp that crafted its own memorable version of our modern world, as seen through a looking glass.
James Boice is back with another new release this month, a ‘longish short story’ called The GOAT, The Goat… but there’s a twist. Rather than publishing through the usual outlets, Boice has opted to self-publish his story digitally. It’s available now from Kindle and NOOK stores, but you can also buy it – at a cheaper price – from the author’s own website. And if you don’t have an ereader, don’t worry – you can download a pdf and simply print it off too.
The story itself is a wonderfully timely look at professional baseball, and the corrupting power of true, unbridled talent in the media age. As squads head off to Spring Training, it’s the perfect reminder that it isn’t all glitz and glamor in the dugout.
We chatted to James Boice about the story, his interest in professional sport, and the decision to publish The GOAT, The Goat himself.
Dan Coxon: The GOAT, The Goat is set in the world of professional sports, much like your debut novel MVP. What attracts you to sports fiction? Do you think it’s underrated as a genre?
James Boice: Very underrated and unfairly looked down upon. Professional sports are one of the few common threads running through our fractured society. And that thread is very twisted and rich and therefore very interesting to write about and think about. It reflects who we are and what we are interested in. Look at the Super Bowl. It’s so far gone, so deranged, and so popular. It will be what we will be remembered for, like the Romans and their Coliseums. How could a writer interested in the modern human experience fail to write about American professional sports? It’s one of the most interesting things about our culture.
Yet in literary fiction the topic of professional sports is so unattractive that it’s almost a faux pas. Sports are not only underrated but very much looked down upon by the majority of people who read and write fiction. And in so doing, they are missing some of the juiciest meat of who we are as Americans and humans: People who are striving very hard for glorious, improbable things but more often than not do not get them and must deal with that. Then again sometimes they do get the things they want which has interesting ramifications too.
DC: I love the title… Where did that come from? Was it there from the start?
JB: It was originally just The GOAT but then I realized it needed to be The GOAT, The Goat. I hope it’s clear why after reading the story. GOAT is a common acronym for Greatest of All Time. It’s about the relationship between a baseball player who is referred to in that way and his childhood friend whoâ€¦ is not.
DC: What were your original intentions for the story? How did you end up deciding to release it yourself?
JB: I wrote this story in summer 2011. One of a bunch of short stories I was writing. It was too long for things like literary journals to be able to use. And I was sort of tired of and unenthused about traditional publishing and needed a break from it. It can be pretty dull and disappointing and soul crushing, even when it’s going well. I sent the story around to a handful of magazines anyway, but did not have my heart in it, and nobody took it. I might have been able to find a place for it eventually, but publishing it this wayâ€”as an eBook you can obtain easily and read right away but that you don’t need a device to readâ€”was just more exciting and invigorating than that right now. I knew there were people out there who follow my work and would read something like this if I put it out this wayâ€”maybe they’d be more likely to read it since they wouldn’t have go hunt down a copy of some journalâ€”and would appreciate it and I just wanted those people to be able to read it easily and cheaply. And I felt like I knew what I was doing with regards to production and everything, having been through the traditional publishing process a bunch of times. And my wife is a copyeditor, which was crucial.
DC: What has your experience of epublishing been like? Any advice for authors thinking of going down that route?
JB: It’s been fun and rewarding and a good way to sort of open the windows and let some fresh air in. It’s an exciting time. Our technology is insane. I’ll be doing more if it. I would like to be able to do it all myself one dayâ€”novels, stories, story collections, both electronic and printed.
Here’s my advice: Have extremely high standards. Don’t settle for epublishing just because no one wants to publish your work. There is already enough crap on the internet. Don’t just dump your mediocre crap on the internet. I put this short story out this way with the mentality that I was going publish it in a way that was equal in quality to if it were being done by a well respected publication or house. Don’t choose epublishing just for the reason that the traditional way is too challenging and no one has said yes to you yet. I have paid my dues over a decade of traditional publishing and have learned how to write and have traditional credits under my beltâ€”three novels, stories in big name publicationsâ€”and feel like I know what I am doing. So have very tough standards for yourself. Don’t forget to learn how to write. The method of deliveryâ€”print or electronicâ€”is not important. What is important is writing well.
DC: Do you have a Kindle or other ereader yourself? What future do you foresee for the printed book?
JB: I don’t have one. My wife does. I prefer books. I don’t enjoy the experience of an eReader or reading on a screen, personally. I accept that others do. I like making many options available for people. What I will never accept is the idea of Amazon trying to have exclusive ownership of the content too. They try their damnedest to do that. For example, if you want to be featured on Kindle Singles, you cannot have your piece for sale anywhere else but Amazon. That kind of thing is horrifying. Can’t read this piece unless you buy our product first. Corporate literature. Disgusting. That is why I sell have the option of buying my eBook directlyâ€”and for cheaperâ€”from my website JamesBoice.com in addition to having it available on the Kindle and Nook stores. You do not even need a deviceâ€”I have a printable PDF version laid out all nice-like, just like a printed book. You can print it outâ€”instant hardcopy.
The printed book is going nowhere. eBooks are going nowhere. All this anxiety about it is stupid. It’s just about more options for creative people and for people who would like to read. That is all. And traditional publishers will have to change a bit here and there as a result of all this. Good. The soul of our culture will be better off for it.
DC: I’m guessing from the story that you’re a baseball fan… So, given that Spring Training is just starting up, do you have any hot tips for the year ahead? And what makes it such a great sport to write about?
JB: I am a fan of all professional sports, but not too obsessive. I don’t like to sit on bar stools talking about about the Lakers’ defensive scheme, for example. I am more interested in the conjunction of professional sports with media. I am primarily interested in our culture. My books are interested in the derangement of our culture. I like personalities and stories and psychology. I like watching what happens when you give talented young people everything they could want and set them loose. The result is a kind of mess of cultural contradictions that is very interesting to write about because it reflects who we are and what we care about and what we support.
Different story for college sports, though. I do not consume college sports. I believe it is immoral to do so. They are far, far, far too corrupt and exploitive and dishonest. Pay your workforce. Doesn’t mean I won’t write about them though.